Another Busy Lockdown Day.

Today was pretty busy. I decided it was time to get off my chuff and get active. I did not have pain as an excuse. The leg pain is minimal. I still waddle,. My knees have not miraculously healed. But I’m getting around without too much distress -as long as it is not too far.

I really had to get active. I’m not getting enough exercise. With no swimming and limited waddling, plus all that extra time on my hands to think about food, I am regaining some of the weight I lost.

On top of all that, all this sitting around being idly locked down causes haemorrhoids. And let me tell you. That stuff they give you for piles tastes awful.

First I checked over my faithful cruiser. Tyres, water, oil, windscreen washer. Lights. Then I checked over the boat and trailer. I was going to mount the navigation light brackets but the sun decided to make an appearance. So I gave that up and did three loads of laundry instead.

I like Laundry Day. Having a shower in the evening and climbing between clean fresh scented sheets is the best part of the week.

I’ll get back to the boat in the next few days. Hopefully when it’s overcast. I want to be ready for when the restrictions ease.

And yes, the whole point of this post was that bad joke.

Lockdown Diary, Continued.

I’ve just returned from another late night walk around the camp. Over on the other side there is a permanent site surrounded by pot plants, gnomes and ceramic frogs. I was so tempted to move the gnomes and other figurines around, and maybe kidnap one, leaving a ransom note for a pack of M&Ms – or the gnome gets it.

But I don’t know where the CCTV cameras are.

Enhanced

I overdid things a little yesterday. My shopping trip involved restocking the sparkling mineral water of which I drink 1.25 litres a day to flush my kidneys, that’s in addition to the coffee and occasional no sugar soft drink.

This involved carrying some heavy bags of groceries. A dozen bottles of water, and thirty cans of no sugar coke (a bargain at $20). Can’t pass up a bargain.

As a result, today the pain of just standing up was enough to make me want to go back to bed. I’m already taking a scary amount of pretty strong painkillers. They come with a warning they will increase the effects of alcohol. Logic suggests that alcohol will therefore increase their effect. So it proves. The pain is under control. The downside is that now I am tipsy, and should go back to bed anyway.

Some days one must push through the pain. Others one should just drink a good single malt, followed by a good liqueur in a coffee or cocoa. Then have a little lie down.

My Ironic Injury

The cooler weather has one advantage. I sleep better. However, I still have that early hours visit to the loo to deal with. I cannot try to avoid it by drinking less before bedtime. Must keep these kidneys functioning.

This morning my walk down to the ablution block was punctuated by that shooting pain up and down the right leg that is caused by the spondylosis of my back. I think it was triggered by reaching above my head to turn on the light. My light switches are on the ceiling. I must try to remember to stretch and warm up a bit before getting out of bed.

As I limped along, grateful once again for the gift of the walker, I had a sudden insight, and wondered if the first manifestation of this spondylosis problem might not have been the incident I think of as my ironic injury. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed possible.

Back when I was an investigator for the Ministry of Health, I had a couple of jobs to do at the top of of South Island. The first involved the unlawful laying of cyanide along the one of the walking tracks of a National Park near Blenheim. That was a pretty simple matter, because cyanide tubes all have a serial number. Not difficult to establish who was stupid enough to discard one without even trying to obliterate it.

The second was across in Takaka. An unqualified, unregistered physiotherapist, unlawfully practicing.

I had flown into Blenheim, and as anticipated, taken less than a day to interview the offender and get a confession. I then drove a rental car to Takaka. On the way, about an hour or so out, I stopped at the bridge over the Pelorus River. A scenic structure in a picturesque place.

I walked down onto the rocky riverbank for a photo from a good vantage point. Then I started back up.

Climbing over the boulders, I jumped off one, no higher than a foot or so above the path. As I landed, excruciating pain shot up and down my right leg around my knee. It was so bad I blacked out. I don’t know for how long. When I woke up I was lying on the ground. Still in agony. I made my way very slowly to my car, barely able to stand.

I was really lucky my rental had been upgraded to a large automatic with electric seats. Otherwise I’d never have got into it. I could have called an ambulance but I was reluctant to leave the car and my gear on the side of the road. Somehow I drove to Nelson hospital, and was admitted. I was examined and my leg x-rayed. They could find nothing wrong with my knee or my leg muscles. This is what makes me think someone should have thought to check my back.

Eventually I was discharged, everyone still perplexed about the cause. I manfully drove on to Takaka, in pain, and checked into my motel room. I sat down with a strong coffee, and ended up cast in the couch, unable to get up. Eventually I rolled off the couch, crawled to the bed, and pulled myself in.

Next day I realised I was not in a position to interview the subject. Or do much else. I took photos of the signs outside his practice, and headed back to Nelson airport for an early flight back. They had to use a fork hoist to put me onto the plane. A colleague met me in Wellington and helped me home.

The irony was that I needed physiotherapy for months after injuring myself on the way to interview a so-called physio.

No one ever determined what was actually wrong with me. I’ve never walked properly since, and though I was was eventually diagnosed with osteoarthritis it was not the only cause of my pain. It was years later in the Kimberley a visiting physician made the connection and I first heard the location of L5 mentioned. I learned that leg pain can be caused by the spinal nerves being pinched.. Apparently the doc can tell which vertebra is doing the pinching by the location of the pain.

Thought of the Day

All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated, and well supported in logic and argument than others. -Douglas Adams, author (11 Mar 1952-2001) 

Return to Routine

Friday was a feel sorry for myself day. If you haven’t divined I have these, you’ve not been reading between the lines.

Having my oldest friend of fifty five years visit for a week had been a tonic, despite being marred by weather and these bloody legs not cooperating. There’s nothing we can’t talk about and nothing he can’t offer a sound insight for. I saw him off on Wednesday. Sadly.

Thursday I rested, only venturing out after my morning nap on the bike to do a little shopping at the local butcher and the bottle store. No pedalling, legs dangling, back straight. The rest did me good. I used the walker to get to the shower before bedtime, and didn’t need it at all for the early trip next morning.

I am rethinking my use of the walking stick. I suspect that leaning heavily to one side on it as I do may actually be causing, or at least exacerbating, the pain generated by my back. I suspect it is really necessary to keep it straight. The problem is to steady myself when my knees want to wobble me, without generating another problem by bending my spine sideways. . I have decided to try doing without it. Exercise more.

Following the advice of my mentor and guru, I next addressed, as best I could, a matter that has been preying much on my mind. That’s what led to the fsfm day. But I’ve now done what I can. There’s no more to be done. Move on.

This morning I had the excitement of the rakali encounter, followed by the pleasant discovery that a couple of days rest and comparative inaction had resulted in greatly improved mobility. That is to say much less pain. I climbed into the cruiser in an almost sprightly manner and went for my swim.

Dave hates that word. Sprightly. So I’ll take it on. I’m going to own it.

The return to gravity after ninety minutes of weightlessness was, as usual, a bugger. I wished after all I hadn’t left the walking stick in the car. But I managed the trip to the shower and changing room without stopping or leaning on anything. Small victory. I just need more resolve, and not give in too easily. And rest when I need it. No shame in resting when necessary. My yet immature eighteen year old brain must accept it has been mysteriously transplanted into some fat old codger’s sixty eight year old body. One that has not been properly maintained. One of my regrets.

Regrets

Regrets. I’ve had a few

And there are some I’d like to mention

I didn’t always think things through

I didn’t always pay attention

I never joined the rodeo

Even though I was invited

I never ran away to sea

Though ships get me excited

I loved and lost, and did not learn

I never could forget

Then, at last, I started running

And I am running yet.

It has been said – I know it’s true

We regret most what we didn’t do

© 2020 ARF

No Driving – No Swimming

I have not been swimming over the last week. I have been otherwise occupied.

This morning I was intending to get back into routine, but on climbing out of bed at 05:00 I found my knees were knots of burning pain as soon as I put my weight on them. The trip to the ablutions block was excruciating, punctuated by rests on the seat of the walker, until I realised I could sit down and propel myself backwards like in a wheelchair. I need no further evidence that it is my weight that exacerbates my condition.

Climbing in and out of the lifted Landcruiser is also becoming problematic. Something else I need to think about. Time to change?

I brought out the emergency reserve. 30mg of codeine phosphate hemihydrate. Within fifteen minutes I could feel the effect. Bliss. Except now I am drowsy and thinking I should not be driving, even five minutes up the road to the pool. In fact going back to bed feels very attractive. Probably the safest and wisest option. I don’t know if there is any synergy between the codeine and Pregabalin but it feels as if there is. No good driving dopey.

Back to bed then. A null day.

The Might of Chondroitin

I’ve just dropped David off at Brisbane Airport. Then I drove to the Apple store at Chermside. There my iPhone six, which has been playing up badly, was diagnosed in need of a new battery. I asked for it to be done. An eighty dollar battery is cheaper by far than a new iPhone. I had to wait a couple of hours until they could fix it, so I killed time by having a chicken and rocket wrap for brunch with a good coffee. Opposite the coffee kiosk was a discount pharmacy. 60% off selected stock.

David had told me about Chondroitin and the benefits he had derived from it. He also cited some fairly scientific sounding backup data. It sounded as if it might be beneficial to one in my situation. David is a practical person. A real Taurean, though we Capricorns don’t believe in that rubbish. In any case, I’ve never had bad advice from Dave, and in many cases, including this week, his thoughtful and insightful way of looking at things has given me new inspiration and determination. So I bought some Chondroitin and glucosamine tablets. Enough for a few months. That should be a good trial period.

Aside from the delight and pleasure of Dave’s company, and the practical things that he helped me with – and there was a good deal of that – last week did not go entirely well. We got the Bimini on the boat and sorted out everything to make her shipshape and Bristol shanky. We took her out on a maiden voyage with no disasters. I had some concerns about how I would manage handling her alone, mainly at the launching and retrieving stages. I shall have to work on that. I may have to go out with a companion if I can’t improve my mobility. Some things are just too hard. Fortunately there is no shortage of offers from my fellow inmates. I already have two. I’m not giving up.

Night trips were not even to be considered until I knew my way around the passage better, and in any case, the weather crapped out, all rain storms and wind. Finally, on the last day before Dave had to go home the sea seemed calm enough despite the rain squalls. We took her out from Banksia Beach, and fished off White Patch. Of course it poured with rain. But we didn’t get sunburnt. The Bimini was up.

I threw in a whiting rig. I used squid for bait. Within minutes I caught my first fish. It was a Yellowfin Tripodfish, Tripodichthys angustifrons (Hollard 1854). I’d never seen one before. It was not on my fish identification chart. I had to look it up when I got home.

It did not look very palatable, and it was not so big, so I threw it back.

Then, to my surprise and delight, I caught a snapper (Pagrus auratus). A fish I know well from New Zealand. The first I have caught in over thirty years of trying. It looked perfect for pan frying. However, David, ever practical, pointed out it could be undersized. Not knowing for sure what the size limit is, we concluded that too should be released.

Both Dave and I caught another tripodfish, which we released. After that we thought we’d change location. No more fish. But a good day on the water.

The boat and outboard performed well. The weakest link is me. I need to work on getting in and out of it, and on the logistics of doing some tasks alone. But it is not yet time to despair and sell it.

By yesterday, my knees and legs were burning pain. As I limped and waddled up to the ablution block last night one of my neighbours came out, saw my condition, and told me I needed a walker. He brought one out, one of several he had collected, and gave it to me. It has a seat for when I can’t go on. It really does help. Better than the trolleys I lean so heavily on when I’m shopping. At first I was mortified I had progressed from walking stick to walker so soon in my life, but the advantage is undeniable. Once again a random act of kindness just as I needed it. It almost makes one superstitious.

No, Really.

True story.

I was in the economy shop to buy a device for picking things up, and a lumbar support, I knew I’d find them there at a fraction of the price at a pharmacy. I was not wrong.

I found the picky uppy thingy, which I usually refer to as a gotcha. As I took it from the shelf, I dropped it. I said aloud to myself. “Great. Now I’ll have to buy two”.

A woman standing behind me broke into a fit of giggles as she bent down to pick it up for me. The giggles redoubled when she saw I had already selected another one, and then I tucked both that, and the one she handed me, under my arm.

I thanked her sincerely for the assistance, and for the amusement, which brightened what was threatening to be a bleak day in more ways than the weather.

I had just come from a visit to, of all people, a podiatrist. My health care planner had thought maybe one could help me with my back/leg problem, seeing that I could no longer wear shoes with heels.

I met with him at 08:45. I apprised him of my current condition, and told him it seems to be getting worse lately, despite the walking, cycling and swimming. He listened. He asked a few pertinent questions, mostly about when the pain was worse, what activities made it flare up. He examined my posture.

At last he told me he did not believe that as a podiatrist, there was much he could do for me except provide a little arch support, which he promptly affixed to the jandals (thongs, flip-flops) I was wearing, after I told him they were what I wore most of the time. It may or may not help. He was not hopeful.

However, speaking not in his professional capacity, but as a person still recovering from a broken back, he felt he should pass on the information he had received from the surgeons and spinal specialists who had treated him.

What it amounted to was that riding a bicycle is not a good thing to be doing. Swimming and exercising in water is. So is losing weight. The first I had already begun to suspect. The latter two I already knew. When I mentioned having recently bought a boat, his look of dismay told me all I needed to know. He advised me to get a seat with suspension fitted. He also told me to get a lumbar support for when I sit, and gotchas for picking things up.

So I headed out into the rainy weather with an outlook bleak indeed. The bike had not been a good idea at all. Maybe the boat also. Though that yet remains to be seen. However, no matter how I looked at it i thought perhaps I had not been making sensible decisions lately. Most of my not-good ideas were costly. Either financially or in other ways. For example, my decision to work in the Kimberley had broken my heart, and my spirit, for a time , and did no good to the rest of me.

I tried to think back to the last time I could say I had chosen to do something that had really worked out well.

By the time I got to the economy shop I had progressively thought all the way back to 2009, and my decision to take that well-paid job in Fiji, without having identified anything positive at all. The black dog was circling me, ready to lunge.

Then I dropped the gotchas, talked to myself, and made someone laugh. That made me smile. I headed for the pool and swam in the rain. Swimming is Good.

I swam an extra half hour to make up for the cycling I’m not doing. I also solved the problem of water infiltrating my earplugs as I swam. The rubber bits that go into my ear canal are left and right handed. Somehow I had transposed them after washing them. Something I could have sworn I had taken great care not to do each time. I should have realised straight away.

Dave. My mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it.

I shall continue to use the bike, for short trips to the local shops and for transporting my washing to and from the laundry, but I’ll not be pedalling so much.

FOOTNOTE

By shear coincidence, just after writing about how I talk to myself, I came upon this article.

Which led me to this one. Until now I thought I was in the minority, on the spectrum of schizophrenia.

One Forward, Two Back

I’ve been driving the cruiser to the pool the last few days. I did not think I could pedal the bike. Today I thought I could and set off with a light heart and a cheerful smile.

I think I can, I think I can… i did. I thought I could.

By the time I arrived at the pool I was twinging a bit. 95 minutes of swimming followed, accompanied by Vivaldi, Gershwin, Altan, Paul Brady, Steeleye Span and Pink. Music makes it easy. That little MP3 player is worth its weight in niobium. Even if I have to stop periodically to blow into the earplugs and reseat them in my ear canal after water infiltrates and muffles the music.

When I emerged from the pool, however, I could barely walk. A reviving cappuccino and a hot shower did not help at all, then off to Aldi for fresh vegetables. Once on the bike I found I could not pedal at all. My calves and thighs were the problem, not my knees. Movement was excruciating. So I dangled my legs, switched to medium assist, and flicked on the accelerator. The bike did all the work. At Aldi I limped around leaning on a trolley and bought a cauli, some baby carrots and half a butternut. And a key lime pie. I deserve it.

By the time I got home the battery was down to 25%. And I found I could not get off the bike. I felt like a helpless old cripple. In the end I dismounted by undertaking a controlled fall while hanging on to the support strut of the awning. I’ll pick the bike up later. I only just got inside with the groceries. Coffee and painkillers. Maybe a nap next until they kick in. Brunch can wait. The key lime pie is thawing on the bench. I couldn’t bend over to put it in the fridge. It’s times like this I get nervous. I’m only 68 for fuck’s sake.

Lend Me Ten Pounds, and I’ll Buy You a Drink.

There is a gentleman I pass quite regularly on my cycle ride to the pool who appears to be picking herbs from the grass on the roadside. I’ve often wanted to stop and ask what he is collecting. I almost did so this morning, but it occurred to me he may be collecting cigarette butts discarded by people using the path. I am probably wrong. He is there so often, I doubt there would be that many butts for him to pick up by now. Nevertheless the thought was enough to deter me from stopping and asking. He might be embarrassed.

Whenever something like that happens I get the feeling I am losing an opportunity to hear an interesting story. Is he picking penny royal to make a decoction to induce abortion? is there some psychotropic weed growing here that no one other than he knows of? Is he a harmless nut herbalist, or a derelict with no money for fags? Is it any of my business?

Almost as if to answer the psychotropic theory, I next came upon a much younger man who appeared to have dropped a plastic carrier bag of possessions and was bending over to retrieve them. I was about to stop to help, until I heard what he was saying, or rather the language he was using, and his tone. It was a loud, angry, incoherent rant full of effing and blinding and the colourful C word. He seemed to be referring to one C in particular, up which he proposed to insert various objects. Whoever he was talking to was not visible to me.

Nor, it seems, was I visible to him. I pedalled by on my bike with its bright yellow trailer sporting a pirate flag on its mast. His rant at the invisible person beside him did not change at all as I rode through his line of gaze. I have seen those crazed, dilated-pupil red-rimmed stares before. Not weed. Ice. Move on. Quickly. Before those eyes focus.

The clear water of the pool was warm. It did not feel particularly refreshing. The only energy burnt there today would be in propulsion, not in maintaining body temperature. It was so warm I wondered if I was sweating as I swam. How can one tell?

The MP3 player gave me a particularly good choice of random music today. My 90 minutes of laps passed very quickly. A bit of Zydeco, Sinead O’Connor, Pink Floyd, and Afro-Celt Sound System. I managed to keep up a vigorous stroke rhythm most of the time except during the more languid sound of O’Connor’s Danny Boy. Not my favourite version, nor my favourite of her recordings.

An estimated 4,740 kJ burnt, I had a cold shower and shampoo. Then, after a quick visit to Aldi for salad vegetables, I headed home, pedalling into a freshening breeze from the NNE. Practicing my long neglected nautical assessment skills, I estimated the wind to be between 18 and twenty knots, and bringing rain.

I checked my apps when I got home. 20 knots, NNE. And the radar showed approaching storms. The rain and lightning began within half an hour. It hasn’t changed the heat or humidity.

It still hurts when I pedal. More when I walk. The exercise is not helping, and may even be making things worse. I can’t keep increasing my painkillers. I need a new strategy.

On a completely different note, Richard in Quebec may be interested to hear I have been told there has been a rare (for Bribie) sighting of a small flock of Oriental cuckoos down at Buckley’s Hole. If the weather and my legs permit, I may toddle off down there tomorrow to see what I can see.